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Actress Celina Jaitly, who has always spoken up for the rights of the LGBTs (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender), says the Indian Constitution and the mentality of people do not support the community in the country.
"Our constitution promises equal rights to all citizens of India, irrespective of whether they are a minority or a majority. Unfortunately, when it comes to LGBT rights, neither does the constitution support them at the moment and neither does the regressive mentality of society," Celina told IANS over e-mail from Dubai.
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, dating back to 1860, criminalises sexual acts "against the order of the nature". The section was decriminalised with respect to sex between consenting adults by the Delhi High Court in July 2009. But in 2013, the judgement was overturned by the Supreme Court, which held that amending or repealing Section 377 should be a matter left to Parliament, not the judiciary.
"Whether India accepts it or not, the fact of the matter is that there are millions of LGBT individuals in our country and they deserve the same set of rights and protection by law as every other citizen," she added.
The actress, 35, says the laws need to "rise above cultures" and make sure every individual's rights are secure.
Celina, who won the Miss India title in 2001, says life of an individual from the LGBT community in India is not easy.
"In a society bound by a rigid set of social and cultural norms, the life of an LGBT individual is anything but easy. While urban India still at least boasts of some awareness thanks to social media and many awareness platforms, most people in our country have no understanding and education of what exactly LGBT is," she said.
"An LGBT person has multiple struggles in all aspects of life, specifically women who in any case have to face many battles in our society," added the actress, a United Nations equality champion who promotes its Free and Equal campaign.
A number of celebrities -- leaders in their respective fields with a commitment to the cause of LGBT equality -- have pledged their support to the Free and Equal campaign by becoming UN equality champions. Over the coming months, they will help spread campaign messages and materials through social media. Some may also participate in campaign-related initiatives, including recording public service announcements (PSAs) for television, radio and the web.
"There is a complete lack of awareness and any talk of sexuality and gender makes people uncomfortable. It makes them resort to dire means like suppression -- and even verbal and physical violence -- to express their discomfort," she said.
"The reality is that our society needs to evolve on a lot of levels until we can call ourselves the world's largest democracy."